Boots & Sabers

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1817, 14 Jul 23

The beginning of a long winter

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News earlier this week:

One must give credit where credit is due. Democrat Gov. Tony Evers has had as successful a year as any governor in Wisconsin history, and he did it with strong Republican majorities in both houses of the Legislature. He has begun his second term in office with a lengthy string of accomplishments.


Earlier in the spring, the governor struck a blockbuster deal with the Republican Legislature regarding shared revenue. In this deal, the state would increase spending through the shared revenue program by a record $275 million. The deal also increased spending on government K-12 schools by a record $1 billion. The governor negotiated with the Republicans to allow the city of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County to increase sales taxes (without asking the voters via a referendum) to help plug the massive budget hole that threatens to put both governments into bankruptcy after years of mismanagement.


For all of those spending increases, the governor agreed to increase spending on school choice and to allow some restrictions and requirements on the city of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County in exchange for their authority to increase taxes. Milwaukee leaders are already threatening to sue over the restrictions while they keep the tax money. The Wisconsin Supreme Court will toggle to a radical leftist majority on August 1 and liberal leaders throughout the state are counting on the court to advance leftist policies by striking down conservative laws. The governor is also counting on the court to require onerous restrictions on school choice schools, which is why his agreeing to an increase in spending on school choice was likely considered to be a minimal price to pay for such government expansion.


Evers was just getting started. Taking the big-spending budget bill crafted by legislative Republicans that already increased spending by almost 10%, Evers used his powerful veto to reshape the budget to his liking.


The biggest change was in the income tax. The Republicans had written a tax cut into the budget that would have simplified and lowered the state income tax such that it would have resulted in a $3.5 billion tax decrease. Evers reshaped the tax plan to where it is actually a $603.4 million tax increase. That is a swing of $4.1 net increase in taxes with a strike of his pen according to the estimate by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau. The governor does not have the power to appropriate that money, so it will be seen in future years as an unallocated budget surplus that will burn holes in the pockets of politicians. We remember that we entered this budget with a $7 billion budget surplus that was completely spent.


In addition, the governor used his veto pen to give local school districts the power to increase the property tax levy by $325 per pupil per year until the year 2425. That is over four centuries of tax increases that, if local school districts tax to the max like usual, will result in an increase in school spending of $130,650 per student, or $111 billion increase in K-12 taxing and spending with the current student population.


The governor was not done. Not by a long shot. Evers vetoed the part of the budget that would have eliminated the 188 diversity equity and inclusion positions currently in the University of Wisconsin System. These are positions specifically designed to advance the latest leftist doctrine on race and gender. In an era of declining enrollments, closing campuses, and scarce money, the governor ensured that the primary purpose of using the university system to preserve and advance leftist ideology is protected.


In this same vein, the governor vetoed a provision that would have prohibited the use of tax dollars being used for gender reassignment or gender transition programs for adults and children through Medicaid. These programs will continue unabated under the governor’s watch.


The governor even found time to protect leftist interests in Washington County, where he vetoed a provision that would have begun the process to fund the joining of UW-Milwaukee at Washington County and Moraine Park Technical College into a single school. Both campuses have seen drastic reductions in enrollment, but the taxpayers will continue to support both campuses thanks to the governor.


All told, the governor delivered on his campaign promises and advanced his ideology. Under his watch, Wisconsin will see record increases in government spending coupled with record increases of property, sales, and income taxes to support that spending. He has reset the baseline of state government spending to the highest level it has ever been. His party has waged successful campaigns to put radical leftists on the Supreme Court to further protect and advance his ideological beliefs. 


Were I a leftist, I would be applauding his success in the face of a Legislature controlled by the oppositions. As a conservative, however, I lament that Evers has pushed Wisconsin into what will be at least a decade of decline.


Pray that it is only a decade.


1817, 14 July 2023


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